Why Being Offended is Part of Football – Chants, Banter and Root Vegetables

Football - Manchester United v Chelsea Barclays Premier League

In England football is a game played and watched predominantly by men. Whilst the number of women playing, watching and following the sport is rising, few can argue that the derivative culture of English Football is male orientated.

Whilst I am not going to lecture or romanticise on the male working class routes of the game, behaviours prevalent in these environments can be seen and heard across every football ground in England on match day. The territorial, ego driven passion and pride in ones team is combined with traditional banter, produce the scourge of the politically correct; the football chant.

From the jingoistic, boastful, insulting to the downright bizarre, generations of fans have grown up with the terrace chant with all the baggage attached. Even in today’s sanitised game of executive boxes, prawn sandwiches and all seater stadia, the football chant lives on.

West Ham are blowing bubbles and Chelsea are performing sexual acts with root vegetables, neither of which I hope is in any way related to what Stoke do with Delilah, or what makes the Baggies go boing.

Chants can be funny, chants can be boastful and most are filled with post watershed language, yet the ones that the media focuses on the most, are the ones that cross the boundaries of acceptable rhetoric in society.

Whilst it may seem alien in some cultures, poking fun at, and deriding others people is an important part of English culture, just look at British comedy and media, which take endless glee in knocking people down and football is no different.

The majority of these chants bear no real malice and are just words designed to play on and exploit the insecurities of the opposition.

The north insults the south; town folk insult the country folk, the rich mock the poor and the successful mock the also rans. Local rivals are merciless, callous and cruel and whilst there is little love lost, nobody cries themselves to sleep over the majority of what transpires.

This is for the most part seen as part of the charm of English football, until the TV microphones pick up on the unspoken seedy side of football culture that occasionally rears its head. Suddenly the loveable rogues of English football that make it what it is, transform into thugs and yobs worthy of scorn and our hatred.

I have heard some sickening chants connected to football (mostly in pubs around grounds and not in the stadium), chants glorifying racism, terrorism, death, violence and even genocide. Yet only a handful of occasions have I been truly horrified by what I have heard and I will not repeat it here or ever want my club’s name associated with it.

I am unsure of where the line of acceptability lies. In some cases the lines are clear, racism, terrorism and genocide are clearly unacceptable. However in other cases the balance between casual, relatively inoffensive banter based on peoples differences, and genuine hatred is not so clear.

Do any of the Manchester United fans who sing about Fernando Torres really think he is a transsexual in love with Jamie Carragher? Or that Arsene Wenger grooms young boys with sweets? No of course they don’t, these are chants not fact based allegations. These individuals who have derogatory songs about them should in some way be honoured that the time has been taken to insult them that they have got under their opponents skins.

Think about it how many good/funny anti Titus Bramble or Francis Jeffers chants can you think of, I certainly cannot think of any.

Jason Manford on Footballers

What I am trying to say is that when lines are clearly crossed action should of course be taken, but we should be careful not to tar every one with the same brush or over analyse what transpires (such as the USA chant on Saturday).

To take away the banter, rhetoric and the chanting from football would be to take the joy out of it football chants are not meant to be bold statements, but banter in a world where everyone has to watch what they say.


7 thoughts on “Why Being Offended is Part of Football – Chants, Banter and Root Vegetables”

  1. Football is the most popular sport in England (and obviously, the world!), so we’re not talking about the sport in America. This is what children/teenagers grow up obsessing over; playing, talking about, and watching. When they grow up in a culture that embraces and uplifts homophobia (as it seems most are), they carry that over into everyday life. When men want to make other men feel as emasculated as possible, what words are used? Fagot and homo. (in the USA, that is, UK has their own set of slang) And “gay” is tossed around like it really IS synonymous with “bad”. Is all of this a gigantic coincidence? I think not.

    I doesn’t matter what the fans REALLY think about Torres or Wenger, what matters is the culture that is being bred. (while child molestation isn’t a homosexual specific problem, the homosexual portion of the Wenger comment just reinforces that extra umph) Would it be acceptable if the jokes were about Torres or Wenger being black? Of course not. And since the rampant homophobia gets no mention in your article, except for (what appears to me) to be your “shut up and get over it” consent of it, I can’t help but be slightly disheartened. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  2. No, I think you misread my point, I chose the Arsene Wenger and Torres chants as I know of them and have heard them sung.

    I agree with what you are saying, calling a welsh man a sheep shagger is barely noted in the media, yet the Adebayor song, is widely abhorred by the media.

    This was meant to be my point, I just dont want the witchhunt against the terrace chant and the normally inane banter such as the “USA USA” chants featured in an article on this site to be over analysed and taken for something they are not.

    My comments were that meant to have the message that whilst there is a line, that we should not seek to sanitise football entirely, many people seem naive that those who create the atmosphere they hear on tv and possibly admire are not perfect but in the majority not bigots either.

    I think that a certain amount of banter should be allowed and that we should not take everything we hear on the terraces to heart. There is generally no genuine malice and I would hate to see the game played in silence due to fear of causing offence.

  3. Kristian, I got an email regarding your post, but can’t seem to actually *see* it; maybe there is something wrong with my browser. Ah well.

    Thank you for the clarification regarding your post. I hope you didn’t think me as being hostile as I was genuinely trying to converse, so again, thank you for clarifying.

    This is certainly a hard subject to tackle as there is definitely a fine line between complete sterilization and offensive behavior, so I applaud your attempt. I’m not sure what the correct answer is, or how to handle the situation going forward, but dialog is certainly going to be key.

  4. I think football has a history that goes long into the era before political correctness ruined everything. The chants are amusing its just hard not to cringe when people are singing and laughing about the Munich Disaster or other such horrible things.

    While I think its important to filter out violent fans or fans that say offensive and derogatory things its also important to keep the PC out of football. Football shouldn’t be policed or politicised.

  5. This article can be extended to society as a whole. Whenever you have free speech, some people will go too far with it but it is a price you have to pay to have free speech. I wouldn’t participate in a chant about the Munich disaster but I think you have to allow it, otherwise you get into the inevitable problem of who decides what is ok and what is over the line. Unfortunately in America, we seem to have a system where if anyone complains loudly enough that something is over the line, that gets extended to society as a whole. I hope football chants can stay as they are but PC conformity seems to be spreading throughout the world.

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